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Sports

February 6, 2014

More Olympic-linked furor over Russia anti-gay law

NEW YORK (AP) — Protesters in cities around the world targeted major Olympic sponsors yesterday, just ahead of the Winter Games in Sochi, urging them to speak out against Russia’s law restricting gay-rights activities. Two more sponsors of the U.S. Olympic team condemned the law, but leading global sponsors did not join them.

“‘‘No, no to Russia’s anti-gay law,” chanted several dozen protesters in Paris who gathered in front of a McDonald’s restaurant at the Place de la Republique. The fast-food chain is one of the International Olympic Committee’s 10 top sponsors for the Sochi Games, which open Friday.

Protests also took place in London, Jerusalem, St. Petersburg, Russia, and elsewhere. In all, 20 demonstrations were planned by the advocacy group All Out and its allies.

McDonald’s, like other top IOC sponsors, reiterated that it supports human rights and opposes discrimination, but its statement did not mention the Russian law.

Coca-Cola, another prime target of protests, also didn’t mention the law in its latest statement, though it described itself as a strong supporter of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“We do not condone intolerance or discrimination of any kind anywhere in the world,” Coca-Cola said.

Visa, another IOC top sponsor, issued a similar statement. General Electric, an IOC sponsor since 2005, declined comment.

In contrast to the cautious approach of IOC sponsors, three sponsors of the U.S. Olympic Committee have decided to speak out explicitly against the Russian law.

The first, on Tuesday, was AT&T.

“Russia’s law is harmful to LGBT individuals and families, and it’s harmful to a diverse society,” it said.

Following suit yesterday were DeVry University, a for-profit education enterprise, and yogurt-maker Chobani.

“We are against Russia’s anti-LGBT law and support efforts to improve LGBT equality,” said Ernie Gibble, a DeVry spokesman.

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